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La Liga roundup: Cazorla strikes, Villarreal hurt Real Sociedad with comeback win (video)

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Villarreal’s come-from-behind victory in San Sebastian highlights La Liga’s Sunday action.

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Real Sociedad 1-2 Villarreal

Santi Cazorla in the magician, the journeyman that keeps on giving.

The 35-year-old and longtime Villarreal midfielder Manu Trigueros both netted goals in the second half, as The Yellow Submarine pulled off a 2-1 victory over thriving Real Sociedad at Anoeta.

Sociedad, who remain fifth on the table despite the loss, edged the visitors in possession and passes completed, evident in their first goal scored by Willian Jose. The Brazilian culminated a sequence – with lots of quick passes and possession from the home side – with a simple touch inside the box.

Despite the dominance, Sociedad were unable to create abundant chances – a flaw that would, ultimately cost them the game.

Villarreal’s fortunes changed in the second half, as Cazorla and ex-Liverpool fullback Alberto Moreno took he field in the 60th minute.

The Spanish duo reinforced a side that was heavily leaning on Nigerian winger Samuel Chukwueze for answers. The 20-year-old was a standout for 82 minutes, leading the team in dribbles and most key passes completed.

Towards the latter stages of the second half, Chukwueze earned a penalty after a dangerous run inside the box, leading to Cazorla’s goal from 12 yards out in the 72nd minute.

Villarreal, who travel to Orihuela for a Copa Del Rey fixture on January 11, moved to ninth after the win with 28 points after 19 matches. Sociedad, on the other hand, look to bounce back as they take on AD Cueta in the same tournament on January 12.

Elsewhere in La Liga

Granada 1-0 RCD Mallorca

Alaves 1-1 Real Betis 

Celta Vigo 1-1 Osasuna

Man City reportedly joins Barcelona in pursuit of center back Torres

Man City target Torres of Villarreal
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Manchester City is looking to La Liga to ease its center back problems.

That’s where they found Aymeric Laporte, an unqualified but currently injured success, and where they reportedly seek Pau Torres.

And Pep Guardiola may have to tangle with his former side to earn Torres’ signature, the report says (Spanish language). Barcelona’s center back future is far from settled.

[ PL PREVIEW: Wolves v. Man City ]

The Villarreal defender turns 23 in January, and spent last season on loan at second tier side Malaga.

Torres leads Villarreal in passes (1065) and accurate long balls (116). Only five players in La Liga have completed more passes, and he’s 13th in the latter category.

He earned his first cap for Spain in November, scoring against Malta.

Transfermarkt lists his value at approximately $17 million, though those numbers tend to escalate when the suitor is a club like Manchester City. The comparisons to Laporte go beyond age and league, so City could have quite a deputy.

Report: Chelsea has $200 million transfer budget for January

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Chelsea won’t have to worry about financial constraints this January as it looks to improve its squad.

According to the Telegraph, Chelsea will have as much as $200 million to spend, after the team saved on not spending last summer during its 2019 summer transfer ban. The report states Chelsea has its sights on a number of players, including Borussia Dortmund’s Jaden Sancho and RB Leipzig’s Timo Werner, though it’s doubtful that both teams, also competing in the UEFA Champions League, will let them leave in January.

[READ: Chelsea has transfer ban reduced]

However, the report states that Chelsea believes Bayer Leverkusen’s Leon Bailey and Villarreal’s Samuel Chukwueze could be available to sign. Bailey has four goals and three assists with Leverkusen this year, and Chukwueze has six goals and two assists for Villarreal, all in multiple competitions.

Both players are wingers, which would put pressure on Christian Pulisic, along with Callum Hudson-Odoi, Mason Mount, Pedro, and Willian. Ultimately, Chelsea’s attack needs to do better at breaking down defenses, something that manager Frank Lampard has lamented, with the team having lost four of its last five matches.

Interestingly, about Pedro, the report states he could be off to MLS this offseason, though the rumor is so vague that it remains to be seen.

La Liga: Real Madrid beat Alaves late to leapfrog Barca (for now)

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A roundup of all of Saturday’s action in Spain’s top flight…

[ PL PREVIEW: Arsenal’s post-Emery era begins; Man United host Villa ]

Alaves 1-2 Real Madrid

Without ever hitting their full stride through the season’s first 14 games, Real Madrid have managed to keep pace with Barcelona to set up what should be a thrilling La Liga title race over the next 24 weeks. Zinedine Zidane’s side survived yet another scare on Saturday and came away with a narrow victory away to 14th-place Alaves. With Barca still to play Atletico Madrid on Sunday, Real Madrid sit atop the table with a three-point advantage.

Sergio Ramos headed Los Blancos into the lead in the 52nd minute, but it was quickly erased when Lucas Perez converted from the penalty spot in the 65th.

Madrid’s winner was anything but pretty, but the ball crossed the goal line and that’s the only fact that matters. Luka Modric lofted the ball high into the penalty area and Isco got his head to it barely a yard off the goal line, but Fernando Pacheco made a stellar save only to see the ball roll across the face of goal to Dani Carvajal, who poked it over the line for 2-1 in the 69th minute.

Valencia 2-1 Villarreal

Speaking of surviving, Valencia survived a chaotic derby affair with Villarreal at the Mestalla Stadium to climb back into the top-six.

Jasper Cillessen denied Gerard Moreno from the penalty spot in the 14th minute, but that was just the start of a truly wild affair. Sergio Asenjo made a series of spectacular saves to maintain Villarreal’s clean sheet in the first half. His magic ran out shortly after halftime, though, and in hard-to-swallow fashion. Maxi Gomez played an otherworldly curling ball over the top to find Rodrigo Moreno inside the penalty area, and Moreno got the slightest of touches on the ball and managed to recover the ball on the other side of Asenjo for a quick finish from a tight angle.

Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa, who’s on loan from Fulham after the player and club’s disastrous lone season in the Premier League, hammered home from near the penalty spot just five minutes later. 19-year-old Ferran Torres bagged the winner in the 70th minute, rifling a waist-high bouncing ball past Asenjo for his second league goal this season.

Elsewhere in La Liga

Real Sociedad 4-1 Eibar
Mallorca 1-2 Real Betis

Sunday’s La Liga schedule

Sevilla v. Leganes — 6 a.m. ET
Athletic Bilbao v. Granada — 8 a.m. ET
Espanyol v. Osasuna — 10 a.m. ET
Getafe v. Levante — 12:30 p.m. ET
Atletico Madrid v. Barcelona — 3 p.m. ET

Court again prevents La Liga game from being played in U.S.

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MADRID — The Spanish league lost another battle against the Spanish soccer federation on Friday and won’t be allowed to take a regular-season match to the United States, at least not for now.

[ MORE: Berhalter: No “like-for-like” replacement for Pulisic ]

The game between Villarreal and Atletico Madrid next month was called off after the league lost a court battle against the federation.

A Madrid commercial court denied an injunction to force the federation to approve the staging of the match abroad, which is part of the league’s strategy to expand internationally.

The league hasn’t fully given up, though, and its “unfair competition” case against the federation will continue despite Friday’s ruling. It contends the federation has no right to block the match and is acting anti-competitively.

The league hopes to be able to stage a regular-season game in the U.S. beginning in February, when the full case will be heard.

“Staging an official La Liga match abroad is part of a long-term La Liga strategy for international growth,” the league said in a statement. “We hope that from February forth LaLiga will be able to organize an official match beyond Spanish borders.”

[ MORE: Sterling backs Gomez after boos were heard at Wembley ]

The league has a 15-year partnership with the group Relevent to promote soccer and bring games to the United States.

“Bringing clubs closer to their global fans represents a significant opportunity to connect with them and to continue working to increase La Liga’s followers around the world,” the league said. “This international growth leads to benefits for the clubs, their players, their fans, La Liga as a whole, Spanish football and the brand of Spain.”

Last season, the league unsuccessfully tried to take a match between Girona and Barcelona to Florida, an attempt also hindered by the federation’s lack of approval. Barcelona pulled out citing a lack of agreement between those involved.

The league complained the federation opposed the games but at the same time is organizing its own matches abroad, like the four-team Spanish Super Cup that it will host in January in Saudi Arabia. The Spanish Super Cup also was played abroad last season, in Morocco.

The federation argued it was different to play a league game abroad because it would affect the other 18 clubs participating in the competition. Real Madrid and Barcelona had reportedly expressed their opposition to the game in the U.S. because it would be played in a neutral venue, thus favoring Atletico, the away team.

Instead, the game will be played as originally scheduled in Villarreal, an industrial city of 50,000 a short drive from Valencia.

The dispute is the latest between league president Javier Tebas and federation president Luis Rubiales, two outspoken figures who have been at odds over a series of issues involving Spanish soccer.

[ MORE: Report: LA Galaxy want Cavani to replace Zlatan ]

The federation said in Thursday’s court hearing the league’s attempt to play abroad breached FIFA regulations and could hurt Spain’s bid with Portugal to host the 2030 World Cup.

Although FIFA’s permission for the game is not mandatory, president Gianni Infantino last season expressed his concerns when the league tried to play the game between Girona and Barcelona near Miami.

Villarreal season ticket holders would have been compensated for losing out on a home game. They could have received a 40 percent discount on their next season ticket purchase, free entry, and travel for up to 3,000 fans to the away game at Atletico’s Wanda Metropolitano Stadium or a paid-for trip to Miami for up to 600 people.

Similar compensation packages were offered to Girona fans last season, and many had already accepted them when the game was called off.